Originally published in The Atlantic, issue #2140, October 19th, 2059

I’ve never liked the Islamic world. For no reason other than I can’t relate to the lifestyle. I enjoy alcohol, recreational drug use, a hearty political debate and gawking at beautiful women. Here, in the somehow-still-ancient Muslim city of Marrakech, these simple pleasures are out of the question. Liquor is not sold anywhere. Drug dealers are perfectly camouflaged. Freedom of speech is a myth, and women, gorgeous or ghastly, are covered up like statutes in museum basements. It’s simply impossible for a self-indulgent, mid-21st-century journalist to feel at home here. It’s a bit like rehab.

Shortly after arriving at the hotel my wife and I make love. During which, the haunting calls to prayer begin rolling out over the twisted durbs from the scattered mosques in the medina. I can’t help but feel vulgar: having sex while a city prays. After, we lay naked and exposed on the bed and drink cold champagne. We eat dried dates and the syrup sticks to our teeth but the bubbly champagne washes it away. Thank god I was allowed to bring Nancy along. …

Notes made during a stay in the Andean foothills of Argentina.

The Cordilleras rolled out like centuries from one end of the horizon to the other. In front of them, clouds veiled the snowy caps. The rain rushed down off the mountain range and into the irrigation channels. The water rose by the minute and the sound of the rushing water could be heard from all over the posada. Dark patches on the sides of the adobe buildings would slowly grow larger from absorbing the cold rain.

The wind also came down from the mountain range every day at four in the afternoon. Like clockwork. The locals called the wind conchabado, which means hired, because of its taste for punctuality. We had to shut the windows and the doors before the conchabado came or else our blankets, curtains, tapestries and clothes would blow like mad around our room. …

Notes I made that time I tried to live in Indonesia.

The River

Gangs of monkeys strolling over our balcony on some unnamed mission. Naked Indonesians bathing in the running stream below our window. Sounds of scooters buzzing. Horns baying. And birthday-suit children splashing around while their mothers scrub their clothes with stones and soap upon a large rock in the water.

Ladies In The Paddy

North of town it’s quiet and the sun feels hotter. Confused roosters, buzzing flies and the swash, swash, swash of ladies in the paddy beating third-world bouquets of rice frawns against a box. The soft grating of the beaten off pellets in the round sieve. Crack go the stalks under bare, leathery feet. How many grains have come off I wonder? …

The magic, the folklore and the locker-room whispers surrounding Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel #2".

Bob Dylan lived in suite #2011. Madonna stayed in suite #882 during the early eighties. Charles Bukowski stayed in the hotel. So did Mark Twain and William S. Burroughs. Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey there. Jackson Pollock stayed there as did Tom Waits, Brendan Behan, most of the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix. Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road in one of the suites. Several survivors of the Titanic even stayed at the hotel because of its proximity to Pier 54, where the White Star Line planned to dock the liner when it arrived in New York.

The Chelsea Hotel, located in the Manhattan neighbourhood of Chelsea, has seen its share of beat poets and hippie folksters, wide-eyed acid heads and apocalyptic burn outs, high-price hookers and guttersnipe tramps. In its 250+ suites, it has housed the famous and the obscure, the living and the dead. …

Two entirely different ways of life are crashing into each other in Morocco’s former international city. Sometimes the crash is beautiful.

Tangier is about as comfortably polarised as a city can be. The glimmering ville nouvelle is mere steps away from the crumbling ancient medina. Faithful Muslims and bon vivants each going to their respective houses of worship. The prayer and the hash. The hijabs and the knock-off Guess jeans. The pack mules and the Range Rovers. Calls in French, answers in Arabic. A spit-shined Tangier for the king to see and the real Tangier for everyone else. It’s the knot in the tug-of-war rope between Africa’s old world sensibilities and Europe’s joie de vivre. It’s a diesel-spurting, salt-water contradiction. And it’s perfect. Everywhere you go you can feel the dissonance and if you don’t watch you’re step, you can fall in the chasm. …

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Art By Michel Koch

Originally published in Esquire, issue #3151, March 23rd, 2064.

While waiting in the Austin terminal for my mono to Ottawa, I began to think. Ten years ago, this trip would’ve taken two hours. Now, it’s a brisk thirty-five minutes. Barely enough time for my coffee to cool down. I’m thankful for it, too. I hate the crowds. Constant shoving, the noise and chatter, the smells, the pick-pockets and wide-eyed gypsy kids.

On the train, I buy breakfast from a peddler. Pancake cubes are my favourite but the girl only has fry-up cubes left. Another problem with the crowds. If they don’t pick your pockets, they buy your breakfast before you can get to it. And the crowds just seem to get bigger and bigger. Travel gets faster and faster. Thieves get wiser and wiser. But my coffee, with its grinds that swirl around below a lake of frothy goodness, and the heat that diffuses through the cheap styro-cup and the almost-burn it leaves on my upper-lip — it’s perfect and hasn’t changed a scrap since I was born. …

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These days, I drink more Gin & Sodas than anything else. And I’ve got it down to a science.

It’s not really about quality ingredients. I have no doubt that a perfectly prepared gin & soda containing bathtub gin and no-name soda water is more palatable than a miserably prepared gin & soda made with Tanqueray No. TEN and a soda siphon.

It’s in the process, not the product.

Based on my experience this recipe is perfect for scorching mid-days by a cold pool in the tropics, frigid nights in the dead of winter with or without a fireplace, before a massage, during a massage, after a massage, while reading Hemingway; Dickens; Kerouac; Hunter S.; Ayn Rand; Foster Wallace; National Geographic or watching films; good or bad. While thinking about your failed career(s) or dreaming up some new ill-fated venture. While in the driver’s seat, passenger’s seat or back seat. It goes best with electric company or profound loneliness. With food or without. Morning, afternoon and/or night. In either hemisphere. …

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Okay, a little over two years and whole lot more than beer — but this is a little goodbye note to Panama.

Of the four national beers in Panama (Panama, Balboa, Soberana & Atlas), the green-bottled namesake is by far the best. Though, I must admit, they all taste a bit like gutter-water and will leave you more bloated than drunk.

I’ve drank Panama underwater in bromine-soaked pools and I’ve drank it in the back seat of a Piper Cherokee Six while flying low over the Pearl Islands.


Jeff Campagna

It’s a long story. Former: journalist, screen writer, author and filmmaker.

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